'It is obvious that the police went overboard'

THE death of Andries Tatane, who was allegedly shot and beaten to death by police during a service delivery protest in eastern Free State, has sparked a wave of criticism against the police.

Television news footage aired on SABC news on Wednesday night showed Tatane bleeding from his chest and collapsing to the ground - dead.

The Star yesterday quoted two eyewitnesses as saying that it was an unjustified attack.

Witness Seipati Lebusa described the horror. She said Tatane was a teacher who volunteered his services to Grade 12 pupils, teaching them maths and science.

She said a group of people were watching the protest from a municipal building on the street where the attack took place.

"People had dispersed and the police were pouring water on people," she said.

"Andries approached them and asked them to stop. They pulled him to one side and five or six policemen started beating him up."

Lebusa said she heard someone shout "shoot", but did not see anyone do any shooting since police had surrounded the teacher.

Suddenly they moved away and she saw Tatane lying on the ground.

Johan Burger, senior crime and justice researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, criticised police behaviour.

"It is obvious that the police went completely overboard," he said.

It is still unclear whether Tatane was shot by the police or by protesters, or if the wounds in his back and chest were from live ammunition or rubber bullets.

Burger said that if the police had used rubber bullets, they still flouted the rules.

"Rubber bullets can kill you if they are fired at you at point blank range. The use of rubber bullets at point blank range is completely against the rules that guide the actions of the police," he said.

A police colonel from KwaZulu-Natal said yesterday that police "brutality is increasing" and that incidents like the one in Ficksburg were because police did not have adequate non-lethal weapons, like Tazers, to deal with potential dangerous situations.

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